Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hector Berlioz Blogs Against Home Schooling

From his memoirs, p. 6 in the Dover edition:
At ten years old I was sent away to a small school on the hill to learn Latin; but my father soon took me away again and taught me himself. My poor father! What a patient, unwearied, careful, clever teacher of languages, literature, history, and geography he was! He even taught me music, as we shall see presently.

What love in necessary to carry out such a task, and how few father there are who could and would do it! Still I cannot but think that a home education has in many respects fewer advantages than that of a public school. Children are thrown almost exclusively into the society of relations, servants, and a few chosen companions, instead of being inured to the rough contact of their fellows; they are utterly ignorant of the world and of the realities of life; and I know perfectly well that at twenty-five I was still an awkward, ignorant child.
(Berlioz was actually six when he was sent to that school, a footnote tells us. These days, of course, many home-schooling parents want their children isolated from the larger society.)


Anonymous said...

You're reading the Dover edition? Get ye now to the translation by David Cairns, currently published by Everyman. Here is his version:

When I was ten years old he sent me to the secondary school in La Côte, where I was to begin learning Latin. Soon afterwards he took me away again, having decided to look after my education himself.

Poor Father, with what tireless patience, with what perceptiveness and devotion he taught me languages, literature, history, geography and even, as will shortly be seen, music!

How much tenderness must a man feel for his son to undertake and carry through such a task, and how few fathers would be capable of it! And yet I cannot think that in many respects a private education at home is as beneficial as ordinary school life. Children brought up in this way spend their time almost exclusively among relations, servants and a few chosen companions, instead of being early inured to the rough disciplines of human society. Life, the realities of the world, are a closed book to them. I am quite sure that, in this sense, I remained an awkward and untutored child till the age of twenty-five.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you for that - fascinating. I think I need to take a look at the original! My French is almost certainly not good enough for me to read the whole in French, but it is good enough for me to take a look at this passage and evaluate the translations.

Must note that I paid $2.50 for a used copy of the Dover, practically free!

Anonymous said...

You can read the original French here:

The Cairns translation is not only better written than the Newman translation, but also more accurate.

For example, in the first sentence of your example, the original French is: "J’avais dix ans quand il me mit au petit séminaire de la Côte pour y commencer l’étude du latin." Newman translates this as "a small school on the hill", having forgotten that La Côte is the name of Berlioz's home town. Cairns gets this right.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Huh. I understood that well enough that maybe I SHOULD just try to read the French.

Civic Center said...

The Cairns translation of the Memoires is one of the wittiest literary feats in history, and the memoir itself is the most fun, primary-source, historical (though unreliable) account that exists for early 19th Century Paris, Artistic Center of the Western World at that time.

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